My song today is ‘Pretty Woman’ or ‘Oh, Pretty Woman’.This is a song recorded by Roy Orbison and was written by Orbison and Bill Dees. It was released as a single in August 1964 on ‘Monument Records’ and spent three weeks at Number 1 on the ‘Billboard Hot 100’ from September 26, 1964. It was the second single by Orbison to top the US charts. It was also Orbison's third single to top the ‘UK Singles’ chart (for a total of three weeks). The record ultimately sold seven million copies and marked the high point in Orbison's career. Within months of its release, in October 1964, the single was certified ‘Gold’ by the RIA. At the year's end, Billboard ranked it the Number 4 song of 1964.
‘Oh, Pretty Woman’ was eventually the basis for the 1990 film ‘Pretty Woman’ starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts, and the 2018 Broadway musical ‘Pretty Woman. The lyrics tell the story of a man who sees a pretty woman walking by. He yearns for her and wonders if, as beautiful as she is, she might be lonely like he is. At the last minute, she turns back and joins him.
Orbison posthumously won the 1991 ‘Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance’ for his live recording of "Oh Pretty Woman" on his HBO television special ‘Roy Orbison and Friends, A Black and White Night’. In 1999, the song was honoured with a ‘Grammy Hall of Fame Award’ and was named one of the ‘Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll’. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it Number 224 on their list of the ’500 Greatest Songs of All Time’. On May 14, 2008, ‘The Library of Congress’ selected the song for preservation in the ‘National Recording Registry’.
‘Oh, Pretty Woman’ was released the very same year that I went to live in Canada for a few years. It did not really register with me until I saw the film ‘Pretty Woman’ with Richard Gere and Julia Roberts as lead stars. At the time of seeing the film I was courting Jenny Downton, the daughter of the then, British Trade Commissioner to Canada. I was very much in love but eventually decided that it would be wrong of me to marry a young woman aged 17 who had enjoyed a lifestyle that I would never be able to give her. Jenny’s parents were good people who did not object to their oldest daughter’s continued relationship with a 21-year-old man, and they were wise enough to allow nature to take its course.
I must confess to always having an eye for a ‘Pretty Woman’. The more stunning in the looks compartment the young woman was, the greater and more exciting was the challenge. My mother always told me ‘You get nothing if you don’t ask, Billy and you’ll go nowhere if you lack the confidence and belief in yourself!” In many ways, mum’s message had struck home to me ever since being a romantic teenager who was forever searching the dance halls in Huddersfield, Halifax, Cleckheaton, Heckmondwike, Dewsbury, Batley, Bradford and Wakefield for the most beautiful young woman and the best dancer on the dance floor.
The time I speak of was at the height of the Rock and Roll era, and I could bop with the best of them. I was a good-looking young man but not the most handsome in the Windybank Estate gang. I was however, the boldest, the most confident and the most arrogant among the dozens of us who went dating, dancing, drinking, and fighting together.
Very early on during our dancing nights out, I noticed that while I always opted to ask the most beautiful young woman to dance from a group of girls stood together, my mates always elected to go ‘downmarket’ as far as the beauty stakes were concerned.
When I once asked them, “Tell me; when you are the first across the dance floor to ask one of a group to dance, and one of them is an obvious stunner to the rest, why didn’t you ask her?”
Their replies were most enlightening. Being young men carrying two sacs filled with testosterone waiting to be spilled, they always asked the females from whom they judged they would meet the least resistance to their physical advances at the end of the night. In their bizarre reasoning, the bulk of my mates genuinely held the belief that if they asked the most beautiful woman in the group to dance, she would say ‘No’, and if they asked a young woman from the group who was less physically attractive, then she would be more inclined to say ‘Yes’, and then ‘Yes’ again after the dance on the way home!
One Saturday night at Cleckheaton Town Hall where the gang had gone bopping, this same thing happened again. Six of us approached a group of young women and we each asked one of them to dance with us. As usual, I asked the best-looking girl in the group to dance and she agreed. During our conversation later that evening, when we were sitting at a table up on the balcony talking and generally getting to know one another a bit better, she confirmed something which I had long suspected to be true. She essentially told me that being the best-looking girl was not always a bonus when seeking a boyfriend or even a dance and that the more attractive in looks a young woman was, the greater the handicap! When asked why this was so, she simply replied, “Big boys don’t ask pretty girls to dance because they fear being refused!”
While I have never lost my eye for a beautiful woman or never wanted to be in love with one who wasn’t, I have, over my many years of self-ego courtship come to realise that beauty is much more than skin deep. I now know that while a beautiful woman will always delight my eye, it takes a wise woman to further my understanding, an intelligent woman to stimulate my mind, an independent woman of strong character to allow me to be myself, a non-snoring and fragrant silent-farting woman to be my bed partner, a sensual woman who can make me both find and lose myself in passionate ecstasy, and a pure woman to save my soul and steer me in the direction of ultimate spiritual salvation.
I thank my lucky stars that, in my wife, Sheila, I managed to acquire the full package of beauty, wisdom, goodness, sensuality, and pureness; all in one woman. And do you know the irony; Sheila, was the one to ask me to dance with her and all I had to do was to accept her invitation. Sheila’s mother, Elizabeth, was like my mum, a wise woman; and Elizabeth obviously gave Sheila the very same advice as my mother had given me as a teenager; “If you don’t ask, Sheila, you’ll never get!” The moral of this story is that Sheila asked me and she got!
Love and peace Bill xxx